A couple of months back at PAX, I had the chance to sit down and try
Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga from developer Dancing Dragon Games and was instantly intrigued. Taking a healthy dose of Fire Emblem along with an injection of the horribly underrated Ogre Battle titles, what you get is a brand new strategy RPG that oozes nostalgia and possibilities. We could very well be witnessing the birth of a brand new SRPG powerhouse series.
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Welcome to the land of Tahnra, a land where political sabotage and power plays are commonplace. After a long and tumultuous struggle for succession in the Veridia Empire, the citizens are still struggling to clean up the pieces under the reign of Empress Florina. Even though it is tense there is at least peace, but unfortunately, it is doomed to be short-lived.
You play as a brand new military academy graduate, thrust into a mission to lead troops to reclaim the kidnapped Empress and put down the growing insurrectionist group who took her. Things quickly take a turn, and you will find yourself dealing with far more than just insurrectionists as you contend with gods, demons, and reborn heroes.
Combat will feel familiar to fans of Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series, particularly the older 2D entries, though Symphony of War comes with plenty of other strategy game elements as well. You will maneuver your army around a grid, locking down cities and other points of interest, and gathering resources and allies that you will be able to spend to improve your army. Each of your ‘units’ is composed of a handful of troops arranged around a three-by-three grid, with each member taking a turn during an encounter. There are 50+ classes available to your troops, including fantasy staples like mages &knights to more unique offerings like cannoneers with massive guns. Higher stage classes all require specific values in various stats and then different resources that can be found in levels or bought in shops.
It isn’t long until you gain different types of attacks as well, which will prioritize the amount of damage you give & receive. You also opt for a less-lethal battle option where you will deal less damage but with the capability to capture the enemy troops instead of killing them. Doing so will provide you additional Leadership points, allowing units to equip better items and have more troops in the unit, while also giving you a good amount of bonus gold at the end of a level, as your captures for ransom.
As much as I enjoy the elements that Symphony of War has adopted from the Ogre Battler series, I do wish though that this game took a couple more things though. I love the idea of morale and one side winning or losing a fight, but since the losing side doesn’t run away or try to avoid fights if they’ve lost their commander, the computer will simply attack again on their next turn as if nothing is wrong. It makes the morale of a unit come off as simply another stat to track and less the thing that holds a unit together.
Secondly, I wish that the placement of a unit within a troop mattered more and determined the type of attack a unit would do. I do like that it impacts how many attacks a unit does, but I would take once less row in a troop if it gave units different attacks depending on where they are placed.
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There is a good deal more to take into account if you want to succeed in Symphony of War. Terrain height and types will play a big part, such as giving your ranged units more distance when they have the high ground, or reducing enemy counterattacks when attacking from the forests. Weather changes can also impact things, so it is always good to be prepared for multiple scenarios, just in case.
All of this is quite manageable so far, but things quickly become more complex once you step foot into the camp. From the camp you will be splitting your time between buying new units to outfit your ranks with, changing the classes of your existing troops, outfitting them with new items, or unlocking new benefits and bonuses in the army skill tree. When all that busy work is done, you can use special coins that allow you to test your mettle in the arena.
I really appreciated how much customization and things to do there were, in tailoring my army how I wanted to. There’s a lot to become acquainted with early on, such as all the different stats to figure out, what the different special abilities a unit can have, and how Leadership affects troops, it was a lot to juggle. Thankfully, to help players extensive help guides are available in the menu that will clear a lot of the hassle, and they were a godsend to have.
To have been made in RPG Maker, it is astonishing how much of Symphony of War doesn’t feel like a game made in that software. Much of the gameplay is on par with what you would expect from a larger studio with pedigrees for this style of SRPG. To get through the later levels, you will really need to be on your toes and make sure that you have properly outfitted your troops.
That being said, there is a pretty drastic disconnect in the presentation of this game. While the overworld, combat, and the camp screens all look like they could have been pulled straight out of a Nintendo title, the “cinematics” chibi sprites and the semi-realistic character portraits really conflict with each other ones used in combat. The realistic portraits especially seem off, since everything else in the game has such a stylized or anime aesthetic, that it just didn’t work for me. It didn’t help matters that the portraits get mirrored depending on the side of the screen they are on, for most characters this isn’t an issue, but for some characters, it just doesn’t work on. When the eye patch is on one side of a character’s face in the portrait and the other on the sprite, it kind of detracts from impactful moments. If given the chance, I would love to see a more unified art style in future Symphony of War games.
Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga is an impressive new IP to the SRPG space and one that the creator, Phil Hamilton, has a lot of plans for. He already has ambitions in place for its sequel and beyond, and I can’t wait to see how this series continues to grow. Judging from the reception so far on Steam, and the support that it’s getting, I don’t think I’m the only one!
Versions tested: PC (Steam)